NEW BEDFORD — The city is actively pursuing a return of passenger airline service to New Bedford Regional Airport. "We've made contact with various people in the industry," said James Burgess, chairman of the city's Airport Commission. "We're looking at established carriers right now. Whoever we brought in, we'd want them to be successful."
Mr. Burgess said the commission would like to see the return of connecting flights to a major airport hub, like Newark, N.J. or New York City. The airport can handle small jets that carry up to 50 passengers, he said, but the service might also be handled by a smaller, turbo-prop airplane. "We're never going to be a Providence or a Logan," Mr. Burgess said, "but there is a large population in and around the airport that could be served by such a service."
The service would provide three round trips a day to a hub. Mayor Scott W. Lang said he is pushing for a return of passenger service to a major hub, too. Cape Air already flies out of New Bedford to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, carrying 24,000 passengers a year, according to the city airport's Web site. "We're looking at all options to make the airport an economic development engine for the city and the region," he said.
If and when the commission were to convince a carrier to launch passenger service out of New Bedford two things would have to happen, Mr. Burgess said. The airport would have to re-apply for certification for passenger service. Even though Cape Air already flies out of the airport, the facility would have to receive a different certification for the service being proposed. The move would also require significant upgrades to the security system at the airport, because larger airports in Newark or New York require that bags and passengers be screened according to guidelines from the Federal Aviation Administration. Mr. Burgess said the cost of getting certified and the upgrades "would depend on the airline flying," he said.
According to a story in the Boston Globe last week, Skybus Airlines, a new Ohio-based airline offering fares as low as $10 one-way, will begin offering service out of Westover Metropolitan Airport in Chicopee, to Columbus, Ohio, on July 16. Westover currently does not offer passenger service. Skybus began service to the Boston area recently when flights began from Columbus to Portsmouth International Airport in New Hampshire The airline focuses on airports that are located an hour away from major airports, as well as flying into major airports from smaller airports.
Mr. Burgess said he had not read the Globe story about Skybus but was interested in the announcement.